This time somebody is at least trying to stop an agency from allowing people to make out like bandits on the taxpayer's money. The agency in question has allowed people to pull the wool over its eyes for decades.

In an update to a story we reported, it appears the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is not just facing bad PR over a watchdog report that found more 25,000 high-earning tenants were collecting housing benefits, but challenges to its funding.  According to the report, nearly half of “over-income” families exceeded limits by between $10,000 and $70,000 a year. There were especially egregious cases of a NYC family making $497,000 a year but only paying $1,500 in monthly rent for their 3-bedroom in public housing.

Now, Republican Florida Congressman Rep. David Jolly wants to strip HUD’s budget of more than $100 million – the amount spent on over-qualified tenants. He was prompted to take matters into his own hands after being fed a lot of hot air from the HUD.

Jolly sits on a congressional committee overseeing HUD. Following the report, when he asked to see the list of tenants in Florida who were taking advantage of the system, he learned that there were just shy of 300 families earning more than $100,000 a year but living in HUD housing. HUD officials tried to convince Jolly that they “encouraged” public housing authorities to institute policies that would reduce the incidence of over-income tenants from securing benefits. But when Jolly did some investigation of his own by calling a half dozen local agencies, he learned that their hands are tied from evicting anyone because the policies are unclear.

So Jolly is demanding that HUD clarify what steps can be taken to give overqualified tenants the boot at the local level.

The Washington Post reports:

“Three of the five housing authorities I’ve spoken with said they would like to evict these tenants, but they are prohibited from doing so,” Jolly said in an interview Sunday. “HUD is saying they can. I don’t know who is right.”

Disturbed by this apparent contradiction in federal housing policy, Jolly, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, says he plans to take committee action to slash $104 million from HUD’s annual budget. That’s the amount that the agency’s inspector general recently reported is spent every year to subsidize over-income tenants in a sample of 15 local housing authorities.

… “If HUD doesn’t fix the problem, I’m going to take $104 million out of the agency’s budget.” Jolly also has called for a congressional investigation into the issue.

When HUD was first presented with the conclusions of the draft audit, the agency strongly objected to all of them.

But after media reportd, HUD changed course, saying it would send a memo to thousands of local housing authorities to urge them to evict over-income tenants, since the law does not allow the government to force them out.

“What I saw in that memo is classic Washington: Come up with enough legalese to cover yourself, push responsibility on local housing authorities and you’re done,” Jolly said.

At least there’s a champion on Capitol Hill willing to hold HUD accountable for not being a good steward of public money by going after abuses and trying to prevent it in the future. Jolly needs to keep up the pressure on HUD.

I’m apt to believe the local officials over HUD headquarters. I’m sure they are telling the truth when they say they’ve received mixed messages from HUD. What incentive do they have to allow abuses to occur when they are the one who stare into the faces of families on the waiting list for housing?

At the end of the day, it’s not just about punishing wrong-doing. Taxpayer dollars are being squandered on the undeserving.